Renewable energy symposium in Corozal
The Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology and Public Utilities hosted a renewable energy symposium in Corozal this morning. The purpose of the session, which included participation from the public and private sector, is to get input from a wide cross-section of Belizean stakeholders. According to the minister of Energy, Joy Grant, that input will form the basis for working sessions on how to make cheaper sources of energy a reality, sooner rather than later.
Mike Rudon, Reporting
Today’s symposium on renewable energy sources featured presentations on hydro-energy, solar energy and biomass, as well as addresses on the energy outlook for Belize and the region. This is a discussion which has been on the table for some time, but is becoming more critical as the cost of traditional forms of energy continues to rise. Frank Mena is with the Ministry of Energy and is facilitating the symposium.
Frank Mena, Ministry of Energy
“The Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology and Public Utilities wants to get the private sector involved in renewable energy and energy efficiency—it can’t just be a government initiative. And so a bold step has been taken to get the private sector involved and so we’ve had…this is the third of the private sector forum that we engage the private sector in renewable energy initiative. We had the first in Belize City for the central. The second was held in Dangriga for the southern region and then the third here in Corozal for the northern region to get the private sector engaged in the discourse.”
And a sign of how important that discourse has become is the reception by the private sector, which was well represented at the symposium this morning.
Joy Grant, Minister of Energy
“The response has been really, really overwhelming. Because usually we only have a symposium once in this country, we did it in three areas and every time we have new people and some come to the next one and the next one because people are really interested in this subject. If for nothing else, everybody wants their light bill to go down. And we are saying if we go to a larger percentage of our energy needs from renewables we can guarantee that the rates can go down.”
After the presentations today the public and private sector representatives will sit down to figure out the collaboration necessary to make this thing happen. For its part, government seems prepared to do everything necessary to facilitate the process.
“At the end of this, we break into working sessions in which people will go into working groups that is somewhat compatible with what they are doing and discuss what could be done, what are their challenges, what are some of their barriers and what are some of their recommendations. We gather all that information and we are working on a paper where we can apprise cabinet, present to them and see how we can make some adjustments.”
“We have to…I also said this morning, there are certain things that the ministry has to do. We have to look at our laws and make sure that those are friendly to the new investments and we will be doing that. and we also have to look at duties—import duties and customs regulations and duties—because those will also have to be revised, upgraded to meet the requirements of renewable energy.”
“By the end of this month or very shortly thereafter, the PUC with the Ministry and B.E.L. will be asking for proposals—fifty megawatts—of what we call reliable energy and then some seventeen to twenty for renewables. So yes we are definitely moving now to the private sector to say this is an opportunity to come to us with your projects. The projects that we agree on, will then move…we know that they will get a license once they are able to get their funding, etc and I think that is a major step. We haven’t done this for many years. So it shows that we are not only having this symposium. We heard what the private sector had to say and now we are going to them and we are saying to them, you have the opportunity now to go into this business.”
The Public Utilities commission was also represented at the session today Mike Rudon for News Five.